Is This Really a Surprise?

The University of Leicester recently published a press release titled "Quality Management Means Lean Management" that details a 22-year study (conducted by Stephen Wood, Professor of Management and Director of Research, University of Leicester School of Management) of the integrated use in British manufacturing of a set of Lean management practices in which employee empowerment was a major component. The conclusion? "We found in all 22 years that those firms that used the integrated Lean approach have higher levels of productivity (measured by value-added)."

One very interesting point caught my eye: "... pioneers in integrating these practices (the total approach) outperformed even those that subsequently adopted it. Later adopters caught up in practice usage by the end of the period studied, but their productivity growth was not sufficient to catch up with those which had adopted it earlier." This conclusion reinforces the benefit of building Lean into the culture of an organization -- the "pioneers" would not have able to sustain their rates of improvement if Lean was simply reduced to the application of a set of tools.

Are any readers of this blog surprised by the conclusion of this study?


Brett Wills on The Lean Nation Radio Program

Brett Wills –- author of Green Intentions: Creating a Green Value Stream to Compete and Win -- will be a guest on the The Lean Nation radio show May 19th from 4pm to 5pm (EDT) on 790 AM Talk and Business, hosted by Karl Wadensten. He will discuss important Lean and Green topics, and he's looking forward to sharing his insights on air to a wide audience of business leaders and change agents.

You can listen to his appearance live on 790AM (Citadel Broadcasting, ABC Affiliate) in Providence, Rhode Island. The show is also globally available via a live audio stream at
790business.com. Brett would love to hear your opinions and answer your questions, so feel free to call in to the show. The call-in number is 401-437-5000 or toll free at 888-345-0790. If you can’t tune in live, a podcast will be available after the show.

The Lean Nation is a new show on 790AM and airs from 4 pm to 5 pm, weekdays and streams online at 790business.com. The Lean Nation features real world examples and actionable advice from local and national business leaders on how to reinvent yourself into a Lean operation in business and in life. The show's host, Karl Wadensten, is the president of VIBCO, a Rhode Island manufacturing company. During the past three years, VIBCO has created a Lean Revolution using lean methodologies (based on the Toyota Production System).


3P at GE

According to this article posted on Business Wire portal, all major products manufactured by GE at its appliance and lighting facility in Louisville, Kentucky will be developed using Lean techniques. More specifically, the company is embracing a 3P (production, preparation and process) strategy.

It appears that Dirk Bowman, GE Appliances manufacturing leader, has the correct outlook and expectation because he states that "the journey will take several years to fully implement" and realizes that a Lean initiative is not merely a quick fix or a simple program to exploit short-term profits.

3P is a powerful tool that often results in the elimination of multiple process steps and dramatically reduces rework. Have you used 3P in the product development process?


Mike Osterling Explains the Differences Between Lean on the Shop Floor and in the Office

Over at the Velaction site, I came across this quite helpful podcast that features an interview with Mike Osterling conducted by Jeff Hajek. Mike discusses how Lean in the office differs from its implementation on the shop floor. He explains how to manage changes, the difference in ownership of jobs, how to recognize abnormal conditions, and what to do to manage the pace of work.

Mike was one of the principal founders of San Diego State University’s
Lean Enterprise Certificate Program, where he continues to teach, and is the co-author of The Kaizen Event Planner: Achieving Rapid Improvement in Office, Service, and Technical Environments.


The 2010 TWI Summit

I am currently attending the 2010 TWI Summit in Las Vegas and am quite glad to see a steady increase in attendance since this conference's formation. The TWI (Training Within Industry) program was established more than 60 years ago by the the US government during World War II to increase productivity and standardize work during a time of crisis. The goals were to: get more done with less machines and manpower; improve quality, reduce scrap by achieving standard work across workers and shifts; reduce safety incidents; decrease training time, especially for temporary workers; reduce labor hours; reduce grievances; and transfer knowledge from a skilled, retiring workforce to an unskilled, green workforce.

The conference will feature presentations by well-known authorities and authors on the subject such
Patrick Graupp, Bob Wrona, and Don Dinero.

Has TWI been instituted in your organization? This program became an essential part of the Toyota Production System, but for many years, it remained in obscurity, and many organizations instituting a Lean initiative overlooked it.


Is the Pharmaceutical Industry Ready for Lean?

I recently read this comprehensive article on the Pharmaceutical Processing magazine website titled "How to Unlock $43 Billion in Value by Improving Working Capital Management." The section on what differentiates the pharmaceutical industry from other industries in working capital performance is quite revealing. Although three main areas are defined -- inventory turns, accounts receivable, and accounts payable -- it is the information on inventory that caught my eye.

The article claims that inventory turns are poor in the pharmaceutical industry due to three specific reasons:
  1. A “no stock-out philosophy" -- the high margins and impact on patients maintain this philosophy.
  2. FDA regulations -- which add to lead times.
  3. Unique labeling requirements and SKUs -- which result in greater inventory complexity.

In regard to improving performance, the article first suggests that pharmaceutical companies should adopt lean production techniques. In addition, it suggests using Toyota's two main metrics: cost structure and return on sales.

Do any readers have any experience working with pharmaceutical companies? Do you agree with the suggestions posited in this article?


Toyota from the Inside?

I've been acquiring and editing books about the production system, culture, and tools used at Toyota for many years now. Some of these books were written by leaders formerly employed by the automaker, and most are analytical and explanatory.

It was quite refreshing to read this
article on the Kentucky.com site about a book written by Tim Turner, a team leader at Toyota's Georgetown plant. The book, titled One Team on All Levels: The Story of the Toyota Team Members, compiles true narrative stories composed by actual Toyota employees illustrating teamwork, principles, leadership, and values. All proceeds from the sales of book will be donated to the Toyota benevolent fund, which helps team members in times of need.

It quite interesting to read what working at this Georgetown plant actually means to this cross section of team members. This book gives a glimpse past value stream maps and A3s and reveals a part of the "on the ground" culture of dedication -- to improvement and each team member.

The writing of the book started in 2008, so the recent recall and associated developments at Toyota are not addressed in the book, but as Turner states in the article, "... the chapter's not yet written for our company, and we're all in the right mode."

Has anyone read this book yet? Feel free to share your thoughts.